- Books, Literature, and Writing
Ip Man on Blu-Ray
Armchair Travels with Movies
A few years ago I was in Santa Fe sifting through the racks of a DVD store in a stylish mall. I came across Ip Man, read the back, almost always untrustworthy, and examined the overdramatic photo on the front. What exactly would these clues tell me? If I had held the plastic casing to my forehead I would not have known more. No word of mouth had reached my ear. It must have been in the action/adventure category, so I free associated it, for some reason, with Oldboy, not an equivalent at all. I mean the 2003 Asian film, not the remake or take-off with Josh Brolin -- although I never saw it. What I mean is all that bloodshed, those shady characters, and unrelieved pent-up righteous indignation leading to clinical-level mentally ill violent revenge.... In any event, I put it back. God only knows what I walked off with. I lined up at the cashier, leaving with a purchase, unstained by the tarnished brush of a stereotypical mallrat who browses but never buys. Maintaining a subliminal interest, not for any special reason, perhaps only the setting, picture, and a liking for Kung Fu, which I thought I had outgrown, I either ordered it online or picked the trilogy up in Wal-Mart. Well, in any case, I would find out.
True enough, there are three Ip Man movies, all good. A fourth is on the way. I preferred the first, owing to its historical setting in 1937 China. Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a grandmaster of Wing Chun. After the Japanese invasion, he and his family are forced to move to Hong Kong, where he teaches martial arts. A Japanese officer challenges him in order to prove Japanese superiority in all things, including Kung Fu. An element of nostalgia enters in. This kind of movie used to have a niche following. You could see them a local movie theater. Yeah, on 42nd St., where you could also get a sandwich prepared behind a counter with bars and bullet-proof glass. On the screen, the hand is quicker than the eye; on the soundtrack, the sounds are just as quickly matched. Ip Man has a way of holding his own before landing supernaturally rapid punches that leave his opponent, no matter how muscular and menacing, lopsided and lost. Oh, by the way, hate to name-drop, but Ip Man was for real and lived on (despite a vindictive bullet wound) to instruct Bruce Lee.
Dare to Read.
As Well as Books
How about Saudi Arabia's Riyadh? In Life On Hold by Fahd Al-Atiq, one gets more into the first person voice of the narrator than the basic, drab living quarters of Riyadh. But after all, it is via the inhabitants themselves, even if one towers over the rest, that the back streets of the famous city are recreated. Maybe I did not read the novelette accurately. It has been a while since I read fiction, hooked as I am on non-fiction. I wanted to acquaint myself with something from the other side, as it were, not the familiar talking heads on TV news. All made-up, costumed, and freshly powdered, usually they have no first-hand experience in the Saudi Arabian capital occasionally referenced. I suppose I have no right to be so negative, but it is the absolute lack of luxury that partly makes the story interesting. If I must, I can add my own story into the mix since I lived in NYC without having anything to do with glamor and glitz, and if there were exceptions, they definitely did not occur on a regular basis.
The novelist is only a handful of years younger than me, so I felt comfortable identifying with him. His detachment, too, caused me all the more to empathize with him. For instance, he steers clear of the rabid men in thobes who feverishly sell cassettes on the sidewalk. The narrator, Khaled, calls them and their wares a one-way ticket to Afghanistan. Turns out to be true, too, at least for his brother, whose death he defines as suicide. As to his own life, it is not especially noteworthy. It is just that he puts some of it down in writing so that it takes on an additional layer of significance. Every once in a while, something newsworthy happens, such as the assassination of Anwar Sadat or Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, but these are items he merely acknowledges, such as an unwanted clump of dirt on a new shoe, or a food stain on one's favorite clothing. Why is life on hold? If he does not feel himself living a life more unlived than lived, or permanently held back -- going from job to job, dreaming of romance, making the rounds to Arab cities -- he sees it in his sister, Afaf, whose life mirrors his own. In his notebook, he puts her down as a "sad fish", the same as himself.
You Tube Sermons
Cell Phone Sermons
Late nighters who cannot sleep might find solace in these. There are many of them, read by various anonymous volunteers. Some are filled with fire and brimstone. Others are purposely not -- seeking advantage in a more rational approach. Depending upon affiliation, you might want to be selective. I am, too, in my own way, though I am always charmed to encounter a new voice, regardless of what font it arose from. I prefer the older sermons, though I can weather mid-twentieth-century preaching. My contemporaries leave me cold. I cannot say why. I am not always in agreement with the bits and pieces of theology my poorly trained mind is able to latch onto. But if spoken with sincerity, old sermons are almost all worthy and worthwhile. It is sometimes hard to take them in wholesale. This is where technology comes to the rescue. One merely hits pause, returns, or lets it go.
I find it intriguing to supplement sermons with related archeological reports. Much affirms the validity of what is written. But watch out for unknown mysteries, of which there seems to be no perceivable end. Pyramids in Antarctica? Mermaids and Mermen? Disappearing islands? UFO's? Visitations from aliens? These might test your credulity. Nevertheless, now is the time to give ear or shut it down. Things are not what they used to be. Who knows how long we have. It was a bad scene the other night. There were ugly shootings, a terrifying fire, and later, additional feed for the ongoing distrust of governments possibly conspiring without the people's consent. Still, civilization has yet to fully collapse. While there is life to live, why not spend a part of one's day and/or night searching one's own soul? According to many sources, it can achieve eternal life, even if the body dies and decays. As such, the soul must have a great deal of importance.
Chi-Town's North Siders
MLB on TV
With so many channels, television is certainly a personal matter. I pay extra for Major League Baseball. Even with four installments, it is by no means cheap. But I love the game. Above is a pitcher showing how he holds the seams of the ball before delivering it to the plate. Fans in the box seats cannot see as much unless they bring binoculars and their tablets. I do not know when I became fascinated by pitching. I sat behind home plate at Chase Field in Phoenix and could not tell one pitch from another. At ninety miles an hour, it is only afterward that one learns, usually from an announcer, that it was a change-up, slider, fastball, curve, or, what truly interests me, plain garbage in the sometimes vain attempt to get a jumpy batter to just swing, miss, or ground out. Is baseball still America's Pastime? Maybe not. It hardly matters. It is a great game for young and old alike. Also, it takes your mind off all the awful stuff that has become, God help us, our daily bread.